Using the Power of Music for Change

Over this Labor Day weekend I had the good fortune to be a volunteer for Oxfam at the Coldplay concert at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. I had a wonderful time talking to people about Oxfam and their Stand As One (#standasone) campaign and, of course, a blast seeing Coldplay (maybe for the last time … ?). I have to admit that I am an unabashed fan; yes their music is completely commercial, and their lyrics often reminiscent of Hallmark sentiments, but they are always so upbeat, so cheerful, so fun, and so full of life that they lift my spirits every time I hear them. And when Chris Martin sings of peace, love, and hope to the soaring music of the band, I end up fully believing he means every word. Because, secretly, I think he does. And yeah, so do I.

Coldplay are also probably the best entertainers I’ve ever seen live. Somehow they make it seem like they traveled directly from England to northern California solely to play for you. They work hard to make sure everyone is enjoying the show. They acknowledge the sacrifice of time and money to come see them, and seem truly grateful. And they put on a multimedia spectacle that is so tightly choreographed it doesn’t seem choreographed. Even if you aren’t a fan they are worth seeing live.

2016-09-03-21-12-34But there is another aspect of the band that underscores their messages of peace, love, and good will towards all: they have been strong supporters of Oxfam for 14 years. Oxfam, an international charity organization that began in the UK in 1945, works to create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice.

They are an organization that does it right, in my eyes. They do disaster relief, but their ongoing work is to fix issues by creating concrete solutions. Instead of hauling in clean water to areas of drought or contaminated water sources, Oxfam works on the ground to build sanitation services for ongoing sources of clean water. It is the old, “Give a fish/teach a person to fish” axiom as a modus operandi.

I became aware of Oxfam through Coldplay. I saw them during their Viva La Vida world tour, and an Oxfam volunteer approached me about a petition. During their Mylo Xyloto world tour (which was sold out), I saw online that Oxfam needed volunteers to work their concert in San Jose, so I volunteered. That year Oxfam was promoting a petition to expedite deliveries of food and water to distressed areas by allowing relief organizations subsidized by the U.S. to purchase supplies from countries nearby the region in distress, and ship them on available transport. Believe it or not, the U.S. mandated that relief supplies purchased with government subsidies had to be from American farmers and use American-owned transport companies – no matter that it often resulted in delays in terms of months.

Oxfam won that battle. The law was changed. They won it with the help of hundreds of Coldplay fans that signed the petition because, like the band, they believe that helping others (quickly) is the right thing to do, over the political thing of protecting U.S. businesses.

Stand As One is just as important, if not more serious. 65 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to war or natural disasters. To put that in perspective, imagine the populations of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Idaho being forced from their homes! This is the worst refugee crisis since World War II, and most of the western countries are doing only token efforts to solve the issues forcing people to flee, and to care and assist those that have fled. We’ve seen the dead baby on the beach, and the glassy eyed young boy covered in ash and dirt, and this is happening several million times over. Every minute of every day. In 2016 it is unfathomable that we, us peoples of planet Earth, allow this to continue and do not make every effort to help those in need.

The Stand As One campaign is an effort to deliver as many names as possible to ALL of our government leaders who are convening September 19, 2016, who support the following:

All countries must uphold the fundamental human rights of all people on the move and uphold and implement principles and standards of the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol;

Rich countries must welcome many more people seeking refuge and asylum;

All refugee-hosting countries must provide a dignified future – including the right to work and education – to everyone trapped in long-term displacement;

Rich countries must give more help to the developing countries who host the vast majority of refugees and displaced people.

Those are humane demands, and not unreasonable. Does it mean more government spending? Yes. Does it mean some jobs becoming more competitive? Yes. Does it mean having non-English speaking neighbors? Yes. Because that is the help that is needed right now, and we would do it for our communities if called upon. So we must start seeing our whole planet as our community. There isn’t another we know of. Please go add your name before September 19, and join the thousands (and hundreds of Coldplay fans) in the petition. Please. Do it now.

I had a great time talking to people about Stand As One before Coldplay took the stage Saturday night. We added 413 people to the petition. Many of them didn’t hesitate to add their names once they heard the issue. Others brought their friends or companions over to sign it. One even gave me a big hug, which made my night. A big shout out is due to Anna, our Oxfam coach and organizer. She made it easy for us to do the work, and had great spirit and enthusiasm that was infectious.

Thank you Coldplay for getting me involved. Thank you for supporting such causes. Thank you for using your music to make a difference. Thank you for allowing me to contribute, albeit in such a small way.

And thank you for the awesome concert. It is one I’ll never forget.